Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move

Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move

Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move

Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move

Excerpt

in a “progressive, enriching movement of the hermeneutic continuum.” The Christian tradition of interpreting biblical texts, images, and themes that are relevant to the basic shape of Christian moral discourse, and to particular choices about nonresistance, peacemaking, and using violence, constitutes such an interpretative tradition of accumulated meaning.

PROGRAMMATIC QUESTIONS

The succeeding chapters of this book will examine the ways in which several influential Christian figures have examined the biblical text on love, peacemaking, and social responsibility. Each chapter will do so from the standpoint of a social, political, and ecclesial practice that shapes the questions asked and the response derived. Not to be neglected is the fact that the cultural praxis from which each reading proceeds includes not only important practical questions about the use of force itself, but also various philosophical or pagan attempts to deal reflectively with what human social life and moral agency in general mean. All Christian biblical interpreters also implicitly or explicitly borrow meaning from earlier interpretations that help mediate the text they understand themselves to be reading. We will approach the figures or groups within this study in such terms as fidelity to the biblical text; use of other readings of it; sensitivity to social and political practice, and to the appropriate Christian (biblical) response to it; and internal consistency in the reading each attempts. For some authors, such as Augustine, we will also explore the ways in which their readings have become important reinterpreted “texts” for later figures in the tradition, shaping the meaning that the latter give both to the biblical accounts and to their own situations. The overarching question of this project is how these figures in the tradition can or should serve as texts for a contemporary understanding of the biblical message (or messages) regarding war and peace, and also regarding discipleship as “already” manifesting the presence of a kingdom that is “not yet” completed.

Despite religious and theological commitments that often differ radically in many other aspects, one common point of loyalty among Christian just war theorists and pacifists is the foundational importance of the Scriptures, especially those texts that seem either to justify or to preclude the resort of nations or Christian persons to violent force. Today we are more aware of the eschatological horizon of New Testament and early Christian thought than were premodern authors. Yet, kingdom symbolism is integral to the New Testament presentation of the gospel, and draws on the promised land and messianic traditions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus the eschatological problem has always been a part of Christian thought. A good portion of biblical scholarship since Bultmann has tended to emphasize the presence of the

28. Ibid., 65.

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